Dear Editor – Catching It All on Camera

I had heard from people working on Kathy Paspalis’s School Board re-election campaign that her lawn signs were being stolen from around town.

Hers in particular, picked out at locations where there were pairs of two or sets of three signs.

I thought it would be interesting to see what really was happening. I set up security cameras at a couple of locations. It took no time to capture this imagery.

Not only is vandalizing signs petty, it is illegal. It needs to stop. Really.

But it is actually part of a broader pattern. We find ourselves in the third consecutive election cycle (School Board 2011, City Council 2012, School Board 2013) where an incumbent opposed by a particular local political faction is being subjected to tactics like the stealing of signs, deceptive attack pieces, and other behavior intended to harass and manipulate.

Three election cycles in a row. Coincidence?

Quite a few intelligent, informed citizens I know don’t want to believe this goes on. They don’t want to believe people with whom they socialize would stoop that low.

Ask yourself:

• Who are the targets of these attacks?

• Who are the beneficiaries?

It seems the eyes of many citizens have been opened during this election cycle. It hits home when you are an active supporter of a candidate who is subjected to these ugly, corrosive tactics.

Those responsible for or benefitting from this shabby nonsense could make it stop with a phone call or two or a sincere public statement. As a veteran campaigner, I know that to be true.

I am sure this year’s contenders will state they know nothing about any of this and are powerless to act. Their denials may be honest. They may be insulated from the facts.

That’s a weak excuse. No candidate should be comfortable profiting from this behavior.

Reliance on plausible deniability is a complete failure of leadership.

For the past three election cycles we’ve seen these tactics overwhelmingly directed at candidates whom one local political faction desperately wants to defeat. It is of a different order from what could be considered the legitimate rough-and-tumble of a political campaign in a small town like ours. No equivalency exists between this sort of harassment and the criticisms of policy or political tactics some people have become so histrionic about.

We ought to have a conversation about this before we begin the next election cycle.

Do we want to see campaign politics in Culver City become a “game” played according to the same rules they use in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Washington?

I believe we deserve better.

Scott Malsin

The Actors' Gang


  1. Scott, the vandalism of campaign signs has been going on in Culver City for many years, not just three election cycles. We have had signs pulled down from my front yard in previous campaigns – knock on wood this year. Your surveillance video appears to be from the autobody shop at the corner, and you may want to check that this gentleman is not an employee of the business or a local colorful character instead of implying that such vandalism is related to any political group in our city. If you are trying to understand why Culver City voters decided not to reelect you in April 2012, I will helpfully suggest that lawn sign vandalism had zero to do with it. Also, walking around with a video camera is more than a little creepy.

  2. I’m sure I’m not the only resident who recognizes him, I just don’t know his name. I doubt he alone is responsible for all the vandelized signs…but a conspiracy of like minded individuals??? Sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised given the pervasiveness of such acts this election. The silence from the benefactors is deafening.

  3. In previous politicaql campaigns where I was the “sign guy” for a particular candidate, I learned that most of the signs were taken down for non-nefarious reasons. Sometimes a spouse approves a sign and the other spouse or a child takes it down; sometimes a landlord posts a sign and the tenant removes it; and most often gardeners remove the signs so they can do lawn care. A number of years ago, Albert Vera made a stink when one of his signs posted on Jefferson was ripped up and it turned out to be kids who were bored waiting for a bus. I’d like to think that your paranoia is feigned for dramatic purposes and to rile up your supporters, but if you guys actually believe there is a concerted effort to destroy a particular candidates signs, you really need to visit a medical marihuana dispensary and chill out. Please don’t drink alcohol, I can’t stand the idea of Scott or Alan being any meaner than you already are.

  4. Wow Michael. Can we stay to issues or concepts about which we disagree and avoid the personal attacks? I have only commented on observable behavior and my opinion of them in all my posts and letters. I hold no rancor towards any of our candidates. I also recognize the need for unions, but they are not their members. It is good you hold a strong passion as your career is built around legal representation of union(s) and their members. But casting personal aspersions to discount another is undignified.

  5. And it’s not only about signs. Blanketing negative political propaganda re: the opposing candidates on parents cars during Farragut’s Fall Festival was definitely intentional. And…even after the police came to get rid of the culprit she came back to continue to blanket the cars, only after she hurled a few vulgarities to a parent in front of her child. THAT’S what I call creepy.

    Right on Scott…this kind of negative campaigning does have to stop.

    We DO deserve better.

    Thank you for bringing light to it.

  6. So let’s see, Michael Hersh, Staff Counsel at California Teachers Association, is the one claiming ‘non-nefarious’ reasons for the disappearance of signs. I don’t buy it. We’d all like to believe the disappearance is innocent, but know the reality. Last weekend I caught someone near my lawn signs. He scurried away to his car and drove off when he noticed me looking right at him through the window.

    I did not read Scott or Alan’s emails as mean. They were just factual. Thanks gentlemen.

    Personal attacks are pretty shameful, but unfortunately, they have become part of some of the campaign tactics.

    Parents, please get out and cast all three vote away from the outside influence. Robins, Paspalis and Levin.

  7. I am publicly supporting my friend Steve Levin for School Board and I continue to be frustrated with the dishonest tactics that mar our local elections.

    Good job Scott for bring this petty, spiteful tactic to more voters’ attention. Advanced Age is no excuse for repeated vandalism. If I remember correctly, we were discussing these repeated incidents of Kathy Papsalis’ signs being removed from out front of the business you staked out well before October 20th. I know the business well since that garage is where our family vehicles are serviced.

    The video is clearly shot from inside of a vehicle in the parking lot where the vehicles are stored before and after service. Since the first posted video was from October 20th, a Sunday, you obviously had the garage owner’s support in your sting since that business is closed on Sunday and the gates are locked.

    I too have had signs stolen during election seasons as well as signs placed on my property without my permission. The worst was when I woke up on the morning of the general election in 2008 to find that I was the new owner of a Yes on Prop 8 sign that was planted in my yard overnight. I very publicly destroyed that piece of garbage since there was a line of voters at 7:30 am across the street waiting to vote at Rotary Plaza. Some of those in line were friends and neighbors so theatrically destroying the illegally placed sign saved me a lot of explanations.

    In the spirit of further disclosure, I am a CCUSD Parent, member at large of UPCC and a card carrying member of three different labor unions. I regularly volunteer at my child’s school and like other parents have my own laundry list of the facility’s infrastructure and curriculum shortcomings. I have lived in Culver City for 19 years. I also don’t involve myself in political campaigns unless I feel comfortable with the personal integrity and qualifications of the candidate. No one has asked me to post this comment, but I am a friend of Scott Malsin’s and the Elmonts and my my family were once part of the same babysitting co-op. I can’t wait for this election to be over.

  8. Around 20 of Kathy’s signs have been removed, stolen or absconded with. The sign removed by the gentleman with the cane was thrown onto the property. He appears to concentrate on local vandalism.

    The other 20+ signs disappeared from yards and businesses without the owners’ permission. We know this because they all requested replacements. Signs are disappearing from the Crest, Carlson Park, and LinHowe area among others.

    This Sign Thief has stolen at least 6 of Kathy’s signs from one specific corner on Braddock. They leave the other two signs alone, but steal Kathy’s. Today I came home to find one of my Kathy signs ripped off of our fence.

    Really? You can steal my signs but not my vote(to quote someone I was reading about recently).

  9. I too can’t wait for this election to be over. Perhaps if Scott’s post did not imply that the disappearing signs were the product of some mysterious political faction and part of a pattern over three elections, I might not be so negative or personal, but I am disgusted by negative conspiracy theories that involve unnamed parties but by imputation apply to other candidates in this race. THAT is mean and mean spirited, and I don’t attribute that to Kathy Paspalis, but to those of her supporters who apparently will do and say anything to win. Mr. Hamill, I have lived in Culver City and been politically active for more than twenty years. I am not an “outside influence” just because for the last twelve years I have worked for CTA. That’s another example of using smear tactics and anti-union rhetoric to support your candidates.

  10. Mr. Hersh,

    You are correct, there is a group that will do or say anything to win here in Culver City…but not out loud. This is just the first time in my memory folks (like me) are calling it out! Not mean but definitely spirited 🙂

  11. Our children’s well rounded education in a safe, nurturing, comfortable environment with access to appropriate technology should be the priority to anyone who wishes to serve on the school board or work in the field of primary and secondary education. Union fealty is nowhere near as important as giving our children the best opportunity to succeed.

    The only sweatshop conditions in C.C.U.S.D. that we need to worry about are soaring temperatures in the rooms of our outdated campuses during the warmer months. Too bad I’m not voting on a bond issue tomorrow that could have alleviated that.

    Mr. Hersh, the meanest rhetoric that I have seen on this board, or Culver City Patch has come directly from you. You have continually smeared various people as being either anti-union, or “GASP” a Republican. My Mother is a Republican. My in-laws are Republican. My best friend of 30 years is a Republican. I have many union brothers and sisters that are Republican. In fact, when I took the oath to become a member of I.A.T.S.E., the only political party I had to swear or affirm that I was not a member of was the Communist Party. I am a Registered Democrat, but, I vote for who I feel is the best person for the job no matter what their party or union affiliation happens to be.

    If a candidate is sitting by silent and not condemning the repeated theft of other candidates signs, they are in my opinion complicit in dirty politics. Whatever the motivation of the various sign thieves, aren’t they infringing upon the free speech rights of the person they steal the sign from?

    I will be voting tomorrow. My husband (also a working union member) will be voting tomorrow. We will be voting for Steve Levin, Sue Robins and Kathy Paspalis not because a large P.A.C. told us too, but because we feel they are the best people for the job and will put our children’s needs first.

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